Should You Sell Text Links to Monetize Your Site?

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What Is Link Selling and Why Is It So Tempting?

Link selling is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: having people pay you for links on your website. It sounds simple, and in principle it is. After all, companies may pay you to put advertisements on your website, so why not sell links too?

The temptation to sell links on your site can be great.
The temptation to sell links on your site can be great.

If someone offers you, say, $100 to put links to their site on one or more of your pages, it can be awfully tempting, particularly if you’re in the early stages of monetizing your website. However, you should resist the temptation of link selling, because the problems it can cause far outweigh temporary gains in revenue or search engine ranking.

Why You Should Resist Temptation

Google search is built on the concept that people link their websites to pages they like and that they believe to be valuable. Therefore, a page that’s linked to by many other sites is probably more useful than a page that is not linked to very many. Link selling breaks this fundamental principle by gaming the search engine. Pay someone to insert links to your site and you can climb up the search engine rankings very quickly. Once you get caught (buying or selling links), however, Google will penalize you (often severely) and getting your site’s reputation back can be difficult. Following are four consequences of link selling that should dissuade you from trying it.

1. Google Will Penalize Your Site

As mentioned above, if you’re caught buying or selling links and are caught by Google, you can say goodbye to your place on the first page of search results. In 2009, the SEO firm hired by retail giant JC Penney was fired after paid links on thousands of sites artificially boosted JC Penney’s site to the number one position in the search rankings for everything from little girls’ dresses to Samsonite luggage (outranking even Samsonite.com in that case). Once the SEO firm was fired, JC Penney had to work with Google to get its search engine rankings healthy again which was a time-consuming, painstaking process.

2. Link Selling Can Wipe Out Much of Your Hard SEO Work

Undertaking a well-planned, well-executed SEO plan that boosts your site to the first page of search results for your most coveted keywords and then selling links is like becoming a world-class expert in poker and then deciding to cheat. Start selling links and all that hard SEO work your web team has done could go right down the drain. Here’s another example from the JC Penney fiasco: On February 1, 2010, Penny’s average search engine position for 59 search terms was 1.3. Soon after the link buys were discovered and punished by Google, the average had dropped to 52.

3. Sold Links Require Their Own Maintenance

Another reason to forego link selling is simply that it’s more work. If you used a legitimate advertising program to help monetize your trade publication website, you would not only have to tend to that, but you’d have to tend to the bought links as well. It’s a time investment that is completely wasted once you’re found out and penalized for link selling, which will happen eventually.

Link selling can end up being hard work for little to no reward.
Link selling can end up being hard work for little to no reward.

4. You Won’t Make Much Money Selling Links Anyway

Selling links won’t make you that much money anyway. Typical link sellers are low budget scam sites that can’t demand a lot of money for links, and link buyers typically won’t pay very much. Once you’re caught, it’s over, and you’ll probably have to do significant rebuilding to get your site’s ranking back where you want it. If your site drops significantly in the search engines, you won’t get as much legitimate advertising money either. Real advertisers simply don’t want to be associated with the types of sites that sell links.

Alternatives to Link Selling

Perhaps the simplest alternative to link selling is enrolling in a program like Google AdSense, where links are clearly designated as sponsored and do not game the search engines. There are other good ways to monetize your site, such as recruitment advertising for trade publishers through a specialist like RealMatch. Using above-board monetizing techniques may not rocket your site to the number one position in the search engines as quickly as link selling, but it also won’t get you kicked to the dregs of the search engine rankings. Instead, you can expect to see steadier growth and a higher PageRank over time.

Photo Credits: Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net, Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

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